Pundits predict further procrastination at NBTC

Pundits predict further procrastination at NBTC

Choosing new board could take one year

Telecom veterans have warned that the selection of new members of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) board will not be easy and is unlikely to be accomplished in a single attempt due to the conditions contained in the amended NBTC Act.

Concerns have also been raised about the long delay in the establishment of the board, which could prolong the decision-making vacuum at the key agency that regulates the country’s telecom and broadcasting industries.

The six existing commissioners at the agency had their working term extended by the previous military regime — they were originally due to leave the position in October 2017.

This granted them permission to stay in their positions until the new commissioners come into office. NBTC chairman Gen Sukit Khamasundara turned 70 last year and vice-chairman Prasert Silphiphat will be 70 next month.

“It is hard to predict how long the existing NBTC board members will stay in their positions, even though they were supposed to leave years ago,” said a telecom veteran who requested anonymity.

Under the amended act, the selection of the seven new board members could drag on for over a year, he said.

One of the difficulties is each of the seven candidates must obtain the votes of at least five of the seven selection committee members.

If these candidates fail to get enough votes, a new round of recruitment is required.

The list of seven names chosen by the selection committee must also be forwarded to the Senate for voting. Each must gain votes from at least half of all 250 senators to become a new board member, said the source.

Another difficulty is if these chosen candidates fail to receive enough votes from the senators, they will not get another chance in a new round of recruitment.

This means fewer candidates in a new round of recruitment, according to the source.

A telecom analyst who also requested anonymity said a delay in the selection process would inevitably create a vacuum for decision-making regarding various key plans, such as a satellite network filing auction and a 3500-megahertz spectrum licence auction.

Under the previous 2017 NBTC Act, candidates must come from one of the seven following fields: telecom, broadcasting, TV, law, consumer protection, engineering or economics.

But the amended act discards the fields of engineering, economics and law and has replaced them with people’s liberty and rights promotion as well as another two fields which it indicates are beneficial in relation to the duties of the NBTC.

The analyst pointed out it is a challenge for the selection committee to define these two unidentified fields.

“These fields may open the door for people in various sectors to participate, such as those with backgrounds in national security, law and innovation,” said the analyst.

The selection process has begun, with the Senate Secretariat appointing seven members of the selection committee.

These committee members have been drawn from the Supreme Administrative Court, the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court, the Bank of Thailand, the Office of the Ombudsman, the Office of Auditor-General and the Office of the National Anti-Corruption Commission.

All eyes are now on whether a new round of recruitment will go smoothly after the two previous selection processes were ditched.

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